Weather holds down turnout at Maine air show

Posted Sept. 06, 2008, at 2:52 p.m.

BRUNSWICK, Maine — Cloudy skies and the threat of wet weather linked to Tropical Storm Hanna held down the turnout Saturday at Brunswick Naval Air Station at the last Great State of Maine Air Show.

Despite conditions, tens of thousands showed up at the base in hopes of watching the Navy’s Blue Angels precision flying team and other thrilling aerial performances.

But limited ceiling and visibility prompted the Blue Angels to ground their F-18 fighter jets for safety reasons. The Army’s Golden Knights parachute team also cancelled its Saturday performance.

Civilian attractions that did go on included smoke-emitting stunt aircraft, a jet-powered truck that sped down a runway at 300 mph before popping its parachute and a fire-breathing, car-crushing metal dinosaur called the Megasaurus that stands three-stories tall.

During the early afternoon, base spokesman John James put out word that parking lots were not full, allowing the air station’s gates to remain open throughout the day. Officials had announced that the gates would close at 1 p.m. if the lots were full.

The show, which continues on Sunday, generally draws more than 100,000 spectators per day. Sunday’s forecast called for improving conditions, with drier air and more sunshine as the day goes on.

James said the Blue Angels expected to be able to take to the air on Sunday.

About 7,000 people showed up Friday evening for the Blue and Gold Afterburner “Blast” in which a C-130 cargo plane is augmented with fuel bottles to provide a jet-assisted takeoff.

Veterans for Peace organized a protest that included a candlelight vigil Friday night at the main gate to the base and a peace march Saturday that began in downtown Brunswick.

“The Blue Angels F-18 Hornet jets are ‘attack aircraft’ that drop bombs, fire missiles and cannons, and in the real world are used in places like Iraq to kill people,” the group said in a statement.

The Brunswick base is scheduled to close in 2011, but its squadrons will begin leaving this winter. That means there won’t be enough volunteers around to put on a show in 2009.

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